Vacuum Maintenance Guide

Vacuum maintenance guide

A young Phil McHardy investigates a vacuum.

What do we love more than a brand new vacuum cleaner? When clients tell us their 5, 10, or even 15 year old vacuum is still working the same as the day they brought it home. That’s what we’re truly after – long term satisfaction.

To get the longest life and best clean with your vacuum there are basic yearly maintenance items that need to be performed. Things like changing the belt, replacing filters, and cleaning the agitator (brush / beater bar), go along way in the vacuum world. While vacuum maintenance might sound like a foreign language, we’ve broken it down based on maintenance type … and trust us; it’s nothing like getting under the hood of a car!

Vacuum Filter Maintenance:

  • Wash or replace filters as per the owner’s manual. If unsure our general rule of thumb is: washable filters should be cleaned every 3-6 months, and non-washable filters should be replaced every 12-18 months.
  • Filters trap tiny dust particles and will eventually become clogged. Vacuums work by pulling air from the motor through the filters, bag, and hose. Once the filters are clogged the motor cannot pull the required volume of air, which results in a lack of suction. This is why banging or knocking off the dirty filter isn’t the best long-term plan.
  • Overtime washable filters will need to be replaced as they start to deteriorate. If they are left too long between washings they should be replaced, as the dirt will be almost impossible to remove. Once washed the filter needs to dry for 24-48 hours as the motor can be damaged if the vacuum is used with a wet filter.

 Vacuum Belt Maintenance:

  • Most upright vacuums and central vacuum powerheads use a flat rubber belt. These flat rubber belts need to be changed every 12-18 months, or more frequently if broken. Over time the belt will stretch out due to the constant tension. A stretched vacuum belt prevents the agitator (brush / beater bar) from spinning fast enough, meaning it will not be able to separate carpet fibers or lift debris from the carpet.
  • You can use our step-by-step guide to change a flat vacuum belt at home.
  • Most canister vacuums with an electrified powerhead use a cogged or serpentine belt. These belts only need to be replaced when broken or damaged (i.e. teeth missing from the belt), as they do not stretch. However, they should be checked for damage yearly.

Vacuum Agitator Maintenance:

  • The agitator is the spinning brush on the carpet head, it can also be referred to as the beater bar, brush bar, or brush roll. Some canisters that are designed for homes without carpeting will not have an attachment with a spinning brush. Regardless if you have a canister, upright, or central vacuum, the agitator needs to be cleaned regularly. In homes with a lot of hair – human, pet, or otherwise – this is even more important.
  • Once hair and string builds up around the bristles the brush loses its effectiveness. If the bristles aren’t making contact with the carpet they cannot separate the carpet fibers, which is needed for a deep clean. Simply flip the vacuum over and use a pair of scissors, knife, or seam ripper to cut the hair. Once cut you can pull the hair off of the agitator.
  • The end caps, or bearings, hold the agitator in place and need special attention. If hair and debris is allowed to build up in the end caps it will cause the agitator to seize, requiring the brush to be replaced. This can be a costly repair.
  • Some end caps can be removed from the agitator for a better clean. Even if the end caps cannot be removed any dirt and debris should be cleared from this area.
  • The agitator and end caps should be checked on a monthly basis and thoroughly cleaned at least once a year. You will need to remove the bottom plate that covers the agitator, as well as remove the agitator from the vacuum, to access the end caps. This maintenance should be performed at the same time the belt is being changed.
  • Due to the design of some powerheads we do not recommend servicing them at home. Select Miele, Beam, Dyson, and Electrolux powerheads can be very difficult to open up and put back together correctly. If in doubt contact us and we will advise on the recommended action.

 Vacuum Bag Maintenance:

  • Most vacuum bags need to be replaced once 2/3 of the way full. If the bags are too full it causes the motor to work harder causing unnecessary strain and reduced suction. Since the motor has to pull the air through the collected debris sitting in the bag more dirt means less airflow, which means less suction.
  • Whenever possible we recommend using genuine bags as they fit the vacuum better and retain more dust particles than ‘after market’ or ‘knock-off’ bags. This is especially true for Miele and Numatic vacuums, as using non-genuine bags can actually void the warranty. Older vacuums may require after market bags once the original manufacturer stops making them.
  • Do not empty or re-use disposable bags. While the bag may look clean the small holes in the bag will become clogged with tiny dust particles. Once these pores are clogged the air will no longer be able to flow through the vacuum bag properly.

 Central Vacuum Cleaner Maintenance:

  • Ensure that all central vacuum inlets have an intact gasket. If this gasket is missing you’re leaking air and reducing suction.
  • Hoses with holes or cracks (even if covered with tape) should be replaced as these weak points allow air to escape, reducing the suction.
  • If your central vacuum is set up to use disposable bags replace the bag once it’s 2/3 of the way full. If you’re not using bags with your central vacuum it is best to empty the dirt bucket every 2-3 months.

Tip from the mechanic:

“Keep it clean so it can keep your house clean. A vacuum with dirty filters and hair built up around the agitator isn’t going to perform very well. By taking a few minutes once a year to tune-up your vacuum you’re going to help make it last longer, and help it clean better.”

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